Konica Minolta Wows its Channel in Barcelona

By David Sweetnam, Head of Research and Lab Services, EMEA, November 7, 2013

Barcelona, the beautiful Catalan city famous for its Gaudi architecture, irrepressible football team and tantalising tapas bars, was host to the 2013 Konica Minolta European Leadership Conference (ELC2013). Held every two years, the ELC is an opportunity for Konica Minolta’s European channel partners to get together and see where Konica Minolta is today, as well as get a glimpse into what the future is likely to deliver in terms of technology and commercial direction—plus, of course, share a glass or two as they discuss success stories with old friends and colleagues. Having been to the last two ELC conferences in Munich and Hamburg, I was yet again impressed by the event from beginning to end, with Konica Minolta presenting a solid strategy for embracing the key challenges that the imaging industry faces. The keynote speeches in the morning session from Konica Minolta Inc. President and CEO Masatoshi Matsuzaki and Ken Osuga, president of Konica Minolta Business Solutions (KMBS) Europe GmbH, set a very positive tone for the conference.

Matsuzaki opened the event highlighting how restructuring seven business units under a single management structure—Konica Minolta Inc.—was already benefiting the organisation through improved synergies and sharing of expertise in imaging and related technology. He stressed the importance of the business technology portion of the organisation which generates 75% of the revenue. He received applause when he commented that, according to analyst firm Gartner, “Konica Minolta has one of the largest and most loyal dealer networks.” Not surprisingly, Matsuzaki stated that hardware differentiation is dwindling and that everyone in the auditorium needed to focus on thinking of themselves as providing hardware-oriented software services. Cloud and SaaS (Software as a service) were firmly in the spotlight as being key trends that would continue to drive the market, presenting the challenge of maintaining tight document security as the transition from paper to cloud and PC to smart device continues to dominate IT mindset. Indeed, Matsuzaki said that the mobile workforce was expected to be an astonishing 1.3 billion by the end of 2015, or to put it another way: 1 in 3 of the global workforce. The growth in digital production print and the on-going importance of corporate responsibility for sustainability wrapped up the President and CEO’s 25-minute speech.

Upon taking the podium, Osuga, Konica Minolta’s popular and well-respected European president, jumped straight into the numbers, proudly announcing that the EMEA organisation generated more revenue than the US or Japanese markets with 28% of overall Konica Minolta Inc. revenue. He went on to say that the “explosion of content is going to be a key driver” and that a customer-centric philosophy is going to be critical as Konica Minolta adopts a more vertical sector-focused approach. Production was also a key element of Osuga’s speech, with end-of-life cycles for many of the first round of Konica Minolta production placements now offering up new opportunities in the continued move away from offset to digital print technology among commercial printers. Dealers were no doubt delighted to hear that the SMB market continues to be a key cornerstone for Konica Minolta’s services strategy, which is not surprising considering that the SMB market makes up 65 percent of KMBS Europe’s revenue. Osuga closed by stressing that winning in today’s market will not be achieved by focusing on speeds, TCO or simple feature benefits, but instead by proving a product’s suitability within the organisation as a whole. 

After the speeches, which also included one from Dr. Kjell Nordstrom of the Stockholm School of Economics, attendees had the opportunity to see new products and services offerings in the showcase plaza. The plaza was divided up into four main areas, office software/services; office hardware; production hardware and services; and environmental/CSR. The big news in the office hardware space was the preview of a new series of single-function and multifunction A4 monochrome and colour devices. The first thing that grabs you is the user interface, which is the same as that on the A3 bizhub range. The same API and IWS (Internal Web Service) open architecture is also built into these new devices, ensuring consistency across multiple devices. With long-life service replaceable components and consumables, the new A4 devices are designed for the dealer channel for cost-per-page and MPS contracts. Taking the common interface concept further, Konica Minolta also showcased a new universal control panel which connects to Konica Minolta devices without a touchscreen interface via the network port. Currently, the panel—a small tablet that provides a touch screen interface identical to those of the company’s MFPs—is being connected only to single-function Konica Minolta printers, allowing users to take full advantage of services that are usually driven by the touchscreen of ‘all-in-one’ products. For example, users will be able to access secure print jobs stored on the Everyone Print server, or access and print jobs held on cloud repositories. The plan is to eventually roll this capability out to third-party products, thereby providing a single user interface for multi-vendor environments, although Konica Minolta did not provide a timeframe for the rollout to third-party products.

Konica Minolta’s new bizhub Marketplace was being demonstrated at another popular stand in the exhibition hall. Available for the latest bizhub devices, Marketplace is like Konica Minolta’s own Google Play or Apple App Store where users can access and install apps that have been developed for the bizhub open architecture platform by Konica Minolta and partner ISVs. The software and services area, not surprisingly, featured various mobile and cloud solutions from both Konica Minolta and partner ISVs. Data security also had a big presence with a stand dedicated to showing bEST Guard, a home-grown solution that provides auditing and archiving of all copy/scan and print activity per user. Control panel customisation capabilities, remote device and servicing control, and extensive reporting options were also being demonstrated. As Konica Minolta strives to be a major player in the IT services space, it also demonstrated its Dokino solution, a software-only product that provides additional functionality when working with Microsoft SharePoint such as better integration with Outlook and more extensive search functionality.

As expected, there was a lot of buzz around the new production hardware at the show. With a multitude of new colour and monochrome production engines on display, there was certainly plenty to get excited about for those who sell to corporate CRDs, print-for-pay providers or the commercial print marketplace. The colour range has been completely overhauled with the bizhub PRESS C1060 and C1070, new ground-up 60-ppm and 70-ppm light-production devices. Heading up the colour portfolio is the C1100, first seen by BLI at Drupa 2012 and proudly displayed again at Barcelona. With a top speed of 100 ppm and no slowdown across its entire range of supported media, the C1100 looks to be a strong competitor in the mid-volume production space. The last of the new ‘big iron’ devices on display was the bizhub PRESS 2250P. A combination of two bizhub PRESS 1250 monochrome devices, the 2250P allows users to output double-sided workflow at speeds up to 200 ipm, with each engine printing one side of the sheet and process control ensuring that DMax consistency is maintained between the two engines at all times. With workflow playing such a key role in digital production print, it is not surprising that almost as much space was dedicated to production solutions as to the hardware, with variable data printing, colour management, web-to-print and production print workflow solutions all being demonstrated.

The ELC2013 demonstrates that Konica Minolta has its finger firmly on the pulse of the marketplace and is well placed to support its channel over the coming years of change. Many of the products that have been discussed are already scheduled to be tested by BLI in the coming months.

Republished with permission from Buyers Laboratory LLC (www.buyerslab.com). ©2013 Buyers Laboratory LLC